5 Mental Health Benefits of Fitness

mental health

Mental health is often compromised by a lot of people, thinking that nutrition is enough to keep the brain working and cognitive decline is inevitable anyway. Nutrition is indeed essential in keeping good mental health and cognitive decline is really inevitable at some point. However, the natural changes that every human has to face are no excuse in finding ways to remain mentally and emotionally healthy.

Fifteen new cases of dementia are recorded every minute globally. Within thirty years, 115 million people will be suffering from dementia alone. Undeniably, it is high time to act now.

Fitness is one key in living your life to the fullest. What are its specific benefits? Read the list below to start adopting a fitness-rich lifestyle.

1. Boosts Memory and Improves Cognitive Skills

mental health and fitness

Intensive aerobics exercise can increase the size of the brain’s hippocampus by 20%, a study conducted by the University of British Columbia shows. The hippocampus is the brain’s memory storage for language and learning, so theoretically, it also improves your memorization and thinking skills at the same rate.

Another study involving old people aged 60 to 79, all of whom are living a sedentary lifestyle, saw a significant improvement in memorization skills when the subjects were asked to do aerobics exercise for six months.

This benefit is said to be the direct effect of increased oxygen uptake of the brain. As the heart pumps faster and delivers more oxygen to the brain, the brain also increases and becomes more efficient.

Nevertheless, the study confirmed that the same benefit was not observed in muscle building exercises and resistance training. Apparently, keeping your heart rate fast is one factor that has to be considered.

2. Stimulates Brain Cell Regeneration

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Mental diseases, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, start when brain cells die faster than they can regenerate. Hence, stimulating brain cell regeneration is important in preventing such diseases from developing.

Moderate to intense exercises aid in releasing a growth factor called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) that the brain cells need to grow and repair themselves. At the same time, the damage is greatly reduced as inflammation and insulin resistance are lowered.

Cell death cannot be totally prevented as every human, healthy or not, has to undergo this biological process. However, fitness can definitely slow it down and even prevent drastic memory loss from happening.

3. Prevents Depression, Anxiety, and Other Mood Disorders

 

Aside from BDNF, regularly exercising also increases the excretion of feel-good hormones dopamine and serotonin. These hormones help in neutralizing your hormones whenever your emotions dip down the mood chart. They make you feel happy, which, indirectly, boosts your immune system and strengthens your heart.

Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Scott McGinnis also adds that as a person’s mood improves within a few months, his sleeping pattern also becomes more consistent and his sleep becomes deeper, aiding in better relaxation in the process.

4. Fights Stress

Stress is one of the biggest emotional and mental challenges that people of all social classes and cultures have to fight on a daily basis. It is inevitable but is definitely controllable.

Maintaining your fitness by exercising on a daily basis helps you fight stress by lowering the stress hormone called cortisol. As you become more resistant to stress, you also become happier, cognitively sharper, and healthier.

5. Higher Resistance to Pain

Maintaining a healthy level of fitness also helps in boosting your supply of endorphin, another feel-good hormone that aside from making your mood positive, also gives you a higher pain threshold. This helps you cope up with diseases, muscle pain, and joint pain much better.

References:

  • Gelman, L. (date not available). 6 Ways Exercise Makes Your Brain Better. Retrieved from www.rd.com
  • Godman, H. (2016, April, 5). Regular Exercise Changes the Brain to Improve Memory, Thinking Skills. Retrieved from www.health.harvard.edu
  • Martynoga, B. (2016, June, 18). How Physical Exercise Makes Your Brain Work Better. Retrieved from www.theguardian.com

 

About The Author

paulPaul Vandyken is a personal trainer, nutrition coach. His personal website is RigorFitness.com. His blog has articles, videos, and pictures with tips, tricks about fitness, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle. If you are on the journey to your healthy and happy lifestyle, visiting his blog may worth a look or even help you enhance your process.

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